Baseball and the distinction between prejudice and discrimination

Racial and ethnic diversity among Major League Baseball (MLB) players has grown significantly since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947. This past season, a record 259 players (or 29.8%) on the 2017 Opening Day active and inactive rosters for all 30 teams (total 868 players) were born outside of the U.S. (50 states), mostly notably from Latin America. In the 70 years since Jackie Robinson paved the way for minority players, the demographics of MLB rosters have changed drastically but, apparently, discrimination against African-Americans players persists.

At a recent MLB game in Fenway Park, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, one of 62 African-American MLB players, reported having a bag of peanuts thrown at him and being called the “N-word a handful of times.” Afterwards, Jones lamented, “It's unfortunate that people need to resort to those types of epithets to degrade another human being. I'm trying to make a living for myself and for my family.”

Jones is not the only African-American baseball player to have expressed consternation about “a long history of these incidents” at Fenway Park. And this sort of behavior during sporting events is, of course, not a scourge particular to a specific sport or place. For example, soccer matches played in Europe and elsewhere have long struggled with the sad and conspicuous problem of overtly racist fan behavior.

To their credit, the Red Sox organization quickly issued an apology to Jones and to the Orioles for what transpired and expressed disgust for “the conduct of an ignorant few,” expressing resolve to swiftly and forcefully address such infractions in the future, including lifetime bans for perpetrators.

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